Murder on the Mainline: another Mike Claymore Mystery Chapter 04


The phone wakes him at seven thirty and he grabs it at his bedside before it wakes Marlene but as he glances her way he notices she is already up and gone. He says, "Good morning."

"Mike, is that Mike?"

He hears a female voice on the phone and tries to think who it might be. It almost sounds like Trudy and he can't fathom why she would call him at home. "It's Mike. What's up?"

"It's Nina. I have that list of suspects for you but I didn't see you home Monday night. I see your car in the drive this morning so I'm calling on the way out to work. Where do you want to meet?"

"Just give me a minute and I'll be right out."

"No. Someone might see us. Meet me in the Seven Oaks Shopping Mall parking lot in ten minutes. Can you do that?"

"I'm on my way." He hangs up and bounds out of bed.

He dons jogging pants and a pullover sweatshirt. In the kitchen Marlene is getting the kids fed and ready for school. "Going to get in a little jogging this morning dear; for the old waist line. See you in a bit." He kisses her on his way out the door.

"Who was on the phone?" He's already gone and she doesn't get a reply.

He jumps into the Mustang and tosses his wallet into his briefcase. His bag and briefcase are still in the car from his last trip. He backs out and heads for the mall.

He spots Nina's Pinto near the back of the lot by the park in an area under some overhanging trees. He pulls in beside her. He rolls down his window but by now she has gotten out and runs around to his passenger side door. He opens it for her and she slides in beside him. She giggles like she's giddy and says, "I could get fired for this." She slips him a photocopy of a list of suspects and some facts on each.

"This is great, Nina. I could kiss you!" He glances down the list before looking up and reaching over the seat for his briefcase.

"I'm waiting." She sits watching him expectantly.

"Huh." It dawns on him what he has said and he hastens to add, "Sorry, it was a figure of speech. You know what I mean. I really appreciate you getting the list for me."

She looks down and he says to himself, "What the hell!" He lifts her chin and places his lips over hers. Her response is instantaneous as her arms encircle his upper body and she presses herself closer, he's caught completely off guard. He pulls his head back and says, "Hey, wrong place and wrong time. We need to get back to business here. I hate to ask but there are other items you may be able to help me with. I need details of the crime scene. Would you be able to get them for me?"

She pulls her arms back and looks at him. "You want me to really get into trouble, don't you? If I ever gave you documents like that and anyone found out it could be classed as theft and they could send me to jail. It's bad enough I copied their suspects list."

"Come on. You must have seen the crime scene reports. You don't have to give them to me, just tell me what they have. Your description will help me in my investigation and you will be helping to solve the case."

"I saw all the reports. In fact I copied them for the investigations team, but I can't remember everything."

Mike looks her in the eye and shrewdly guesses, "You made an extra copy of all the reports for yourself, didn't you? You’re really turned on by this case!"

"Oh Mike. I can't let you see them. What if someone finds out."

"Have you got them with you?"

"Of course. I don't know where I can safely leave them. I was going to burn them." She is really acting scared now.

"Leave them with me. I'll destroy them if anyone gets suspicious. Don't you trust me, pretty Nina?" He searches her eyes imploringly.

She bites her lip and says, "I have to get to work. I'll think about it." She turns in the seat to open the door.

"What if someone comes across them in the meantime? Like Jeff or a friend you give a ride to, or maybe a suspicious officer your working with?"

She turns back and throws herself against him. "Oh Mike. I never should have copied them. I don't know what to do."

Mike holds her for a moment and she stops trembling.

"Don't let anyone see them." She whispers this last statement and goes to her car. She quickly passes him a folder through his window then turns to leave.

Mike catches her hand and says, "Thanks, Nina. No one will ever see them."

"I've got to go."

Mike watches her car leave the lot before he opens the folder. Quickly he goes through the file to see what all is there. There are crime scene photos in color, early forensic lab reports (more to follow), and officers’ statements, statements of witnesses, a preliminary summary report of findings and other papers pertaining to the case. Mike studies a situational map drawn by one of the officers on the scene.

As he studies it he realizes he has stood in that spot before. A year ago one of the Commissionaires had spotted a car acting suspiciously in the vacant industrial lot next to the yard and on checking had located a small grow operation in that very hollow. No one had been caught for that but Mike had walked over out of curiosity and viewed the site. He knew the spot was out of sight until you stumbled into it and it was right beside the mainline tracks coming out of the railway yards in POCO. It should be easy to find but almost impossible to visit without being seen in the daytime. They probably have combed it pretty thoroughly anyway, he thinks.

He turns back to the list of suspects. Number one is Ray Chauffe. Listed as thirty years old, a driver for CP Express and Transport, unmarried, known to frequent the company of prostitutes. He was listed as shy and introverted. Under search of his home was listed a number of prohibited pornographic video titles that had been banned in Canada because of their violent graphical portrayal of the brutalization of women. Also a few of them were banned because they crossed the line and came under incest and kiddy porn. Someone had written in pen by his name that Ray had sought the company of Flo through a cab driver, Jay Scanlon. It is uncertain if he was successful.

Mike grunts and says to himself, "I guess they've decided he was."

Second on the list was Robert Hanson, twenty-six years of age and his address was given in Surrey. That speeds up my investigation, thinks Mike. Ex husband of the deceased, he's living with Marie Mathers of no fixed address who states she comes from Summerside, in the Maritimes. No confirmation on that point of origin. His arrest record indicates a lot of alcohol abuse, spousal beatings, D.U.I. (Driving Under the Influence) abuses, and assault charges against women and /or men in taverns, bars and restaurants.

Number three on the list is Ron Harrison, a thirty four year old Realtor of Port Coquitlam, married with no children; is listed as being uncooperative and without an alibi for the night of the crime and, interestingly enough, his name is in Flo's little black address book.

Others listed in her book include Jay Scanlon and Anton Vanuetche. The former is listed as suspect number four. Jay Scanlon is believed to have cohabited with the deceased, at least some of the time, and was her contact person for some of her call girl activities. Jay is listed as twenty-eight years of age, a cab driver for Pitt River Taxi for three years, single and believed to be Flo's pimp.

Last on the list is Anton (Tony) Vanuetche, twenty seven years old, lives by himself in his mother's (deceased) home in Port Coquitlam, drives truck for CPX, is personable, affable and considered by his co-workers to be a jokester. Says he dated Flo a few times but nothing serious. In pen again a small notation that he might be involved with local drug trade. It says a tip from a fellow driver, and Mike curses his big mouth. It's only rumor, he thinks.

He puts the list into the file and scans for a workup on the victim. He finds it and notices a car driving slowly through the lot behind him. He puts the file in his briefcase and starts the Mustang. Time to get out of here.

He pulls out onto South Fraser Way and drives out to the airport. He locks the car and goes for a jog along a trail that runs out near the runway. He keeps the car in sight and comes back winded. He thinks he needs to get out and do this more often as he drives around by the hangers. He locates the parking lot from which the car was stolen in the insurance fraud case he is supposed to be working on and asks a technician in coveralls if he knows the boy who's car was stolen. The employee indicates it was one of the painters and he doesn't know him. The painter is apparently a new employee.

He looks around the lot and decides he has to come back at night to get a better idea of the lighting and such. He also looks around the layout of the lot and surrounding roads where a thief might wait before striking. He checks the file and decides to drive the route from here to the gravel pit a few miles away where the vehicle was found burned out.

He calls Marlene on his cell phone but there's no answer at the house so he drives the route. Sitting in his car he studies the layout of the gravel pit. It’s a perfect place to take a stolen auto, strip it and then burn it. High walls would shelter them from observation and hide the glow of the fire. He gets out and studies the black soot where he figures the vehicle was burned. A glint catches his eye and he picks up a small penknife partially buried in the gravel. Without handling it much he slips it into a zip lock bag from his briefcase. Then he studies it through the plastic. Not a criminal's knife, that's for sure. More like a kid's knife. Hmmmm.

Again he walks around the area but nothing else comes to his attention so he climbs into his car again and starts for home. He calls home again on his cell phone and this time Marlene answers. "Hi honey. I'm on my way home. Lunch in an hour or would you like to go out for a bite?"

"Oh Mike, I just came in from the grocery store. I'll put us on a bite here. Have you been jogging all this time?" She sounds sarcastic.

"No, I was jogging by the airport and noticed I had my briefcase with me from the last trip so I started digging into an insurance fraud case I have that occurred at the airport. I'll be right home and fill you in. See you in a bit, dear."

"By the way, work called and wants you to take a load to the Okanagan tomorrow. They said they already called Len and you're to call them."

"Thanks, dear. See you in a minute. I'm just over on South Fraser." He punches off on the phone at the stoplight and speed dials CPX. He gets a local dispatcher and says, "Jerry, its Mike. What you got on for me tomorrow? The wife said to call."

"Half load to Zellers in Kelowna then pick up a trailer in Sicamous for here. Don't have the numbers in front of me but the paperwork will be ready tomorrow at nine."

"Right. I'll be there. Is Len coming in the morning?"

"That's a roger. He said he'd see you at eight on the dock. Anything else?"

"Sounds like your busy. Guess that's all. Take care."

He pulls in the driveway and dials Trudy, but there's no answer. He grabs his brief case and heads into the house. "Hi, hon. I'm going to grab a shower. How long till lunch?"

"Whenever your ready. Don't I get a kiss?"

Mike grabs her and bends her back over the table as he kisses her. "How's that!" He grins and heads for his office in the basement. He drops his briefcase on the desk and goes back upstairs to the bedroom. He strips and gathers a robe around himself as he goes to the en suite bathroom. He hears the water running as he comes in and calls back down to the kitchen, "Thanks, hon. I'll be right with you."

He strips and pulls back the shower door to find Marlene waiting for him with a grin on her face. "Janet's laying down and I thought I might join you." She reaches for him.

Later, both in robes, they enjoy lunch as Mike explains about the insurance fraud case he has. "Seems this kid may have arranged the theft of his own vehicle to get the insurance money so he can buy a new one. This case shouldn't take up a lot of time unless I stumble onto something obvious. These cases are hard to prove. I'll just have to do some legwork and see what I can come up with. Anyway, I'm going to be down in the office trying to make some sense of it for a while this afternoon. Can you keep Janet out of my hair?"

"I'll try. What time do you go tomorrow?"

"Have to be up by six thirty. I want to be over there by eight thirty so I'll have to leave shortly after seven. It’s just a turn around trip: one to pick up at Sicamous after a delivery in Kelowna. At least that's all for now. It can change any time, but I should be back late tomorrow night. Then I should have Friday off. Maybe I can work on this insurance thing then."

Mike retires to his office and closes the door. He opens his briefcase and draws out the file on Florence Hanson. He opens the file and looks for the victim workup.

Top left on the page is a recent photo in color of a plain brown haired, blue-eyed girl, fairly attractive in decent makeup with a saucy tilt to her small nose. Her hair is cut short and styled in a modern way to show off earrings that match the necklace she's wearing. Good cleavage indicates a probable D cup beneath the off the shoulder gown she was wearing for the photo. Beside the picture it says her name was Florence Elaine Hanson (formerly Tremblay), ex wife of Robert Hanson of Surrey. Place of birth is listed as Simcoe, Ontario. Date of birth places her at twenty-three years of age. Place of residence is listed as a small house in Port Coquitlam. She was divorced about a year ago after a marriage that lasted two years. Her height is five foot, five inches and her weight is one hundred and eighteen pounds. Tattoo of a small butterfly is noted on her left breast and another of a jungle cat near her pelvis. No other distinguishing marks are noted.

It also says they lived in Burnaby when they were married, but she received half the property settlement when the place in Burnaby was sold. Further to that settlement she sued and won an assault case against him and received an award that almost wiped him out. Hmmmm, grounds for murder? Mike could see Robert driving her off the side of a bridge or hitting her with the first thing that came to hand but to plot a voluntary sexual liaison with her then strangle her. It just doesn't make sense. He turns from the write up to the photos of the crime scene.

"Well Flo, there you are." He mumbles as he studies the photos. "Definitely a padded blanket and the dispersal of fluids indicate she was not brought there after having been murdered somewhere else. Also the torn disarray of clothing indicates she was murdered where she lay. He gets a magnifying glass from his desk drawer and studies the photos in detail. The purple bruising around the neck and dark cast to the skin certainly seem to support the idea that she was strangled. There is ample bruising in the pelvic region as well and it's difficult to make out the tattoo even though her pelvic area is close shaven. There is something obscene about the way her vagina gapes open in the photo but the whole photo is obscene for that matter. He studies another close up shot of her crotch and turns to the early forensic report. He studies the findings but does not see what he's looking for. Maybe the more detailed complete forensic report to follow will explain what's puzzling him. He'll have to try and get Nina to at least check it for him.

Again he scans the overall shot and notices she has one earring in one ear but the other one is missing. He turns to the attending officers' reports and finds that the missing earring was found in the grass about seven feet from her left side. It also indicates her panties were found lying beside her as if carelessly discarded. He goes back and checks the photo. Sure enough, there they are. He had thought that it was a hanky or Kleenex in the grass beside her or possibly debris. He concludes she must have removed them herself, again indicating a willingness to be there.

He again raises the magnifying glass and studies the area all around the body for anything. The blanket is bunched up in places consistent with a struggle and he tries to picture her fighting with her assailant. Something is not right but he can't put his finger on it.

Her dress is unbuttoned all the way down and spreads under and around her, appearing to be torn in one area near the bust and her bra is skewed around no longer covering her breasts. He looks closer and can see no evidence of bruising around her breasts except where it appears a strap cut a path on the edge of one; again consistent with a struggle. The tattoo of the butterfly is clear in the photo, although turned in such a way as to make it hard to see. Why no damage to the breasts if it was a sexual pervert who attacked her? That's what was bugging him. That's it! And why were her hands behind her back? Again he checks the attending officers' reports and finds that her hands were tied behind her back. Well, that explains that.

Still, there's something else. He can feel it in his bones but what can it be? He starts at the top of the photo and works his way down with the glass. Damn! He's missing something. He knows it. He glances at other shots but whatever it is, it eludes him. Finally he gives up but he knows his mind will keep working on the puzzle and he will wake one morning with the answer clear in his head. He just has to be patient. But does he have time?

Mike puts the file away in his briefcase and locks it. He goes upstairs and tells Marlene he has to go out for a while but will be back in time for supper. He throws the briefcase into the Mustang and drives around to a local service station. "Fill her up." He watches in the mirror as the attendant fills the gas tank. He debates what to do next. He should slip in and see Ray. He'll be at the Remand Center awaiting trial or he might be out on bail if he has a good lawyer. He pays for his gas and decides to call Nina. If she answers he'll ask her where they're holding Ray. If someone else answers he'll hang up.

"RCMP, Port Coquitlam Detachment, can I help you."

"Nina, it’s Mike."

She whispers, "Not now." and hangs up.

"Damn!" He dials the Remand Center in Maple Ridge and asks if Ray Chauffe is being allowed visitors. They inform him that Ray is being allowed visitors. He thanks them very much and gives his name. He requests to be added to his visitor's list. The girl asks him some questions and says he will have clearance to visit if clearance is granted by tomorrow. He thanks her very much and hangs up. Well, now he knows where Ray is, Lower Mainland Regional Remand Center or LMRRC as it is known by the guards who work there.

He leaves the gas station and goes home.

"Any calls while I was out?" Marlene looks up from rolling out some pastry dough and says there wasn't. Mike peeks over her shoulder and watches her quick movements as she sits a pie plate lightly on the dough, slashes with a knife in a circle and lifts it off then clears away the excess and places the shell into the pie plate.

"What you making?"

"What does it look like? It's apple pie. We have a lot of those apples you got to use up."

"Did you save some out for Jeff and Nina?"

"She said you were getting her a crate next trip."

"Oh. I wish people would tell me about these things. I'll be over there tomorrow, so I'll get another crate then. If she doesn't want them, I can sell them easy enough. Did you get a lot of applesauce done up?"

"Twenty pints. And I have lots for the kid's lunches for the next week. I don't think we're going to lose any out of that box. The ones closest to spoiling are in the applesauce."

"Your not only beautiful, your also thrifty." He pats her on the behind and turns away. He hears her chuckle as he leaves the kitchen.

Mike spends the afternoon in his office getting paperwork caught up for his expenses on the job, both for security and for driving, so it will be easy at the end of the year to turn the figures over to his tax preparer. He likes to keep things in order. He again reviews the insurance fraud case and decides after supper he will go and visit Ray then come back after dark to the airport and check things out there.

After supper he drives to the LMRRC just outside Maple Ridge and parks in the asphalt lot. He looks up at the imposing five floor gray building with bars on the windows and remembers other times he's visited this institution. He walks in the main doors and approaches the operations desk. A young secretary asks his business and he says he's seeking a visit with Ray Chauffe. She checks her computer and asks his name.

"Mike Claymore, but you won't find my name on his visitor's list yet. Who's the Keeper on shift this evening?"

"CF5 Bailey is keeper tonight."

"Right. Could you page him for me?"

"One moment, please." She does something on the computer and in a minute a phone rings by her elbow. She speaks quietly into it and hands the phone to Mike.

"Norm, how's it hanging? Haven't seen you in a coon's age. What you up to?"

"Mike, it’s good to hear your voice. I'm tied up right now with the late supper line. Can you wait for a bit? I'll be free in half an hour or so."

"Tell you what, I'm out this way to check in with a friend who's awaiting trial so how be you okay my visit with your girl here and I'll catch you back here at the front desk in an hour."

"Who we got that you want to see?"

"Ray Chauffe. Came in just in the last day or two and probably will be on bail later this week or early next."

"Yeah, I know who you mean. Quiet guy, truck driver, mixed up with that POCO murder. Sure, put me back to the girl on the desk."

"Thanks, see you in an hour."

Mike hands the phone back to the girl and she speaks into it. She listens and says she will take care of everything. Hanging up she regards Mike with a new respect.

"Please give me a minute and I'll see if he's in his unit." She plays with the computer again and says, "Do you have I.D.? I'm sorry for having to ask but we have our security practices and must not deviate for anyone."

Mike just smiles and says he understands. He shows his Private Investigator's License and she says thanks. She checks the picture against the real thing and makes a comment about the photo not doing him justice, smiling all the time. She passes it back to him, holding it a bit longer than necessary and bats her eyes; "You may meet him in the visit’s area in about ten minutes. The visit’s area is oh, I'm sure you know where it is. I forgot!" She looks embarrassed and Mike winks at her. She turns quickly back to her computer.

Mike goes over to a comfortable looking chair and finds out it isn't as he reads a magazine from those available on a low coffee table. He glances up frequently and catches the girl watching him. He smiles and she quickly looks back at her computer screen. Finally he gets up and approaching the desk again, says, "This isn't fair. You now have my name and I don't know yours. How about it?"

She turns to face him abruptly and blurts out "Jenny. I'm Jenny McLeod and I haven't been here very long so I didn't know you when you came in. I'm sorry sir."

"Jenny, what did Norm tell you about me?"

She colors visibly and mumbles something about it’s not important. She studies her nails as if waiting for him to say something. Mike tries to think what Norm might have said to make her act like this; then he tries a feeler, "What time you get off work tonight, Jenny?"

Now she's visibly agitated and says he can go in for his visit. She watches him as he goes to one of the doors in the round reception room. Mike raps and hears a door lock thud in the door. He opens it and steps into an antechamber with a guard. The guard ensures the door behind Mike is closed before he punches a button opening the door into a large visiting area with tables. Mike spots Ray and nods as he enters.

"Did you bring any beer?" Ray's slow grin greets Mike as he comes forward to the table and sits across from him.

"I had to stop by and let you know that a lot of us are not convinced you had anything to do with the crime. In fact, if you can answer a few questions for me, I may be able to help you get clear of this crap. How about it? Are you willing to be grilled?" He grins and Ray shakes his head in the affirmative.

Mike pulls out a small notepad and pen. "First, was that you that I saw leaving the parking lot on Thursday night at about twelve twenty?"

"I guess. I was tired and never noticed which truck came in as I was leaving, but on thinking about it, it must have been your Kenworth. I know it was a big cabover but I didn't know who at the time."

"Okay. So what did you do on Thursday night?"

"I went drinking after supper at the local pub, you know, The Gardens. I guess I hung around there until after ten; then felt I should clean the truck up for the next day's work. I like to drive a clean truck. I drove over to work and pulled the truck up into the wash rack. After I washed it down, I vacuumed it out and put it back in the lineup. Then I went home and went to bed."

"Give me more detail. Did anyone see you washing the truck?"

"I suppose the yard spotter must have seen me pull the truck around to the wash rack and there was a shift working in the warehouse. Some of them might have seen me from the docks."

"Was anyone around while you were at the wash rack?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Did you have your radio on? Did you hear dispatch talking to the spotter, telling him which door to put which trailer at and such?"

"Nope. I don't think I had it on or if I did I never noticed."

"Do you know who the spotter was that night?"

"Probably Hughey."

"You don't know for sure, eh?"


"Were you drunk? Tell me if you were but think about it before you answer."

"I felt okay to drive so I guess I wasn't drunk. If I had been stopped and my blood/alcohol level had been checked I probably wouldn't have passed, but I wasn't incapable of safely driving."

"You were tired on top of that. Hmmmm. Okay, what about earlier, when you were at the Gardens. Did you talk with Florence Hanson?"

"Yeah, I remember trying to get her to go out with me. She turned me down."

"Did you tell the police that?"

"Yeah. Shouldn't I have?"

"You know the drill. Let me ask the questions. I'm following a complicated formula of questioning in my mind and when you ask me a question it throws off my concentration. Can you do it my way, Ray, and trust me?"

"Yeah, Okay. Go ahead and ask away."

"Did you know Flo was a prostitute?"

"I'd heard that but I don't believe it? She was always a proper young lady around me. I thought she was rather nice and I felt sorry for her after what her old man put her through."

"When you were trying to get her to go out with you, where did you plan to take her?"

"To the stage production of 'Cats' at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver. It was on for three weeks and I wanted her to go the next night Friday night. She told me she had other plans."

"Did she say what those plans were or who they were with?"

"I don't remember. I was disappointed when she said no and didn't pay much attention to why, I guess."

"Now think, Ray. Did she mention what she was going to do after work that night? Any hint or suggestion that she might be going out with someone?"

"None that I noticed. I did see her talking to Tony a while before I left but Tony left before I did. She was still serving drinks when I left and waved to me as I left. I felt real sick when I heard what happened. Who would do such a thing, Mike?"

"I don't know, Ray, but I'm going to try and find out. Now the police found some porn tapes at your place. Were they yours?"

"Yeah, I get them from one of the deep sea tug crewmen who picks them up in California when they're down there. I suppose I'll lose them?"

"You'll probably get charged with possessing them. Most are on the prohibited list in Canada. Your buddy will get charged for importing them, as well. That's peanuts though compared to murder. The other fact the police are using to put you into the shoes of the killer is that you often used prostitutes. Well?"

"Yeah, I often go down to Davies Street on the weekends and pick up a hooker. What the hell? I'm not married and no one gets hurt. I'm happy and she's happy, so who gets hurt?"

"Know any of those girls personally who could vouch for your peaceful and loving nature?" Mike grins.

Ray grins as well and says, "Naw, none of them would go to court for me. You weren't serious, were you?" They both laugh.

"One last question, Ray. Did you notice what Flo was wearing on Thursday night? Was she dolled up with jewelry or just in slacks?"

"She looked really nice in a button up dress with a lot of cleavage showing and she had a matching set of earrings and necklace."

Boiiing - the thought hit Mike out of the blue. The necklace! In the photos her necklace was missing but the earrings were the same set she had worn for the shot in her file. He could see the crime photos in his mind and knew that was what had been bugging him earlier.

"What's wrong, Mike, did I say something wrong?"

"No, you just gave me another piece of the puzzle, Ray. I've still got a long way to go, though. I want you to be patient and cooperate with your attorney. I'll keep working on this and keep in touch with you. Oh, one other thing. What route did you take to go home?"

"Straight from the yard down to my place on Diamond Blvd. It's not a five minute drive and I was probably in bed before you headed home to Abbotsford."

"Thanks Ray. I'll be seeing you." Mike gets up and goes to the door. The guard punches the button again and the door is released. Mike opens it and steps into the antechamber. The guard checks the door he came out of and comments, "How can you believe anything that sex pervert says?" He watches Mike and then pushes the button for the outside door. As Mike leaves he turns steely eyes upon the other man and says, "The man is innocent until proven guilty and don't you forget it!"

He crosses the foyer and clasps hands with Norm Bailey. "God, it must be a year since I've seen you. How are Charlene and the girls?" They go off towards the coffee room and talk of old times when Norm was with the federal system. He and Mike had worked together and their wives had chummed around together.

Later as he is leaving he says, "Wait until I tell Marlene I saw you and she will be bugging me to bring her over. Don't be surprised if we drop in on you one of these days, old buddy. And thanks for your help tonight there, Jenny McLeod. I'll be seeing you." He grins at Norm and they laugh together as Jenny pretends she doesn't hear them.

He goes out to the car and checks the time. It's around eight thirty. He can make it back to Abbotsford by nine thirty so he will go check out the lighting in the parking lot at the airport.

By nine oh five he's in Mission and by nine forty five he's out at the Abbotsford International Airport. He parks by the hanger from which the car was stolen and gets out. The parking lot is fairly well lit and all cars parked there are in plain sight. He sees some employees in a coffee room so goes to join them.

"Hi guys. Is Larry Powell here? Is that any of you guys?"

One young fellow in coveralls gets up from a table and says, "I'm Larry. What do you want?"

"I'm working for ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) and we're checking out your claim. Could I ask you a few questions?"

"Oh sure. I didn't realize they sent people out to check our claims. I never made a claim before."

"Just routine. Could you show me where the car was parked the night it was stolen?"

"Sure. Come on."

He shows Mike an occupied spot near the hanger almost under the light on the hanger wall. Mike says, "You state it was locked. Your sure about that?"

He only hesitates a moment before stammering, "I always locked it. With that new stereo of mine I wouldn't leave it unlocked for two minutes.

"Ah, that was the other thing I had to check. Do you still have your receipts for the stereo."

"No. I never think to keep receipts. I told them that on the claim where it asks for receipts. I included the price from the dealer where I bought it."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I must have missed that. Now, do you know any of the young guys they caught?"

He stares at Mike and stammers, "They caught them? It wasn't my idea, you know. They said they've done it many times before and didn't get caught. Oh shit! What will they do to me?"

"Of course, you'll have to give the police your statement, but it will be your word against theirs. They did the actual act, didn't they? You should give your statement as soon as you can, in case they aren't talking yet. How be if I have a friend of mine who's with Matsqui Police come over and take your statement? Then they'll know your cooperating."

"Yeah, that might be a good idea. Thanks."

Mike dials the police on his cell phone and asks for Ken Drydon. In a moment he's connected and gives a brief summary of his conversation with young Larry Powell. Ken catches on to the ruse immediately and says he'll be right out. He knows no one has been caught for stealing the car but he will go along with the fiction in order to get a statement. It won't hold water in court but it will save ICBC from making the payout and it will lead to the arrest of the young hoodlums who have been stealing and burning cars lately.

Mike keeps young Powell occupied with conversation until Ken arrives then bids them a good night. He drives home well satisfied that the case has been taken care of so easily. Just the paperwork and it'll be done. He won't tell Marlene. He may need an excuse to get out of the house on the weekend.

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